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College Students Say Stimulants, Like Adderall are Easy to Find

The drugs college students are using, and their reasons for doing them, have evolved over the years. Today, more and more students are using prescription stimulants, like Adderall, to help them with their schoolwork, instead of just to get high, new research shows.

And these stimulants are way too easy for most college students to get their hands on. Seven out of 10 college students say it is “somewhat” or “very” easy to obtain them, according to a new survey on prescription drug use by US college students.

Studying Stimulant Abuse on Campus

The 2015 College Prescription Drug Study (CPDS), conducted in spring of 2015, is the biggest and most comprehensive study into students’ use of prescription drugs. The survey found that 18 percent of students, or about one out of five, said they had misused prescription stimulants. Most of them (83 percent) had gotten the drugs from friends and 85 percent said they were taking them to help them focus on schoolwork or to boost their grades.

Nearly one out of ten students who had misused stimulants reported experiencing depression, the survey found. And misuse of these drugs may actually end up harming students’ schoolwork more than it helps them.

“Studies have shown that students who misuse stimulants tend to have lower GPAs,” according to Kenneth Hale, a clinical professor of pharmacy at Ohio State. “Some students think of them as cognitive enhancers, but they are really cognitive compensation for students who didn’t go to class, didn’t study and then have to stay up all night to cram for an exam.”

And students’ motivation to use drugs has changed over time, Hale continued. “At one time, college students most commonly misused drugs to get high,” he said. “But today, students also use medications to self-medicate, to manage their lives. They are using drugs to control pain, to go to sleep, to relieve anxiety and to study.”

The Effects of Stimulant Abuse

Misusing stimulants can have a number of negative side effects. The most common side effects of stimulants are:

  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Higher blood pressure

Other, less common side effects may include:

  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Nervous tics

Tackling College Drug Abuse

The findings of the study show the need for better intervention and education about prescription drug misuse at colleges, said researchers, especially since many people begin misusing these drugs while they’re college aged.

“These drugs require a prescription for a reason,” said study author Anne McDaniel, associate director of research and data management at Ohio State University’s Center for the Study of Student Life. “Students need to be under the care and supervision of a physician when they’re using these powerful medications.”

Additional Reading: Should Colleges Warn Parents About On-Campus Drug Abuse?